Space Programs

First Humans in Space

Who was the first American in space?

On May 5, 1961, American astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., (1923–1998), made history with the first piloted American space flight. Shepard rode on the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, which flew on a suborbital trajectory. He reached an altitude of 116 miles (187 kilometers), and traveled a distance of 303 miles (488 kilometers) in space at a speed of 5,146 miles (8,280 kilometers) per hour. Shepard’s fifteen-minute flight ended with a safe parachute landing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Shepard was a navy pilot, and achieved the rank of Rear Admiral. He remained in the astronaut corps after his historic first flight. He eventually commanded the Apollo 14 mission to the Moon, and was the fifth person to walk on the Moon’s surface.


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